EPL

Premier League is back: Previously, in the Premier League...

By Sports Desk May 29, 2020

Over three months after the ball was last kicked, the Premier League is set to restart on June 17.

There have been major doubts over whether the 2019-20 season could be finished amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the action is set to resume in less than three weeks - subject to government approval.

Liverpool were cruising their way to becoming champions of England for the first time in 30 years when the campaign was halted and are poised to lift the trophy behind closed doors.

There may be no title race to look forward to, but it is all to play for in the battle to stay up and European qualification is there for the taking.

We look at the season so far and what is to come in a hectic schedule, with all but four teams having nine matches to play.

 

What is the state of play?

leading the defending champions - who have a game in hand - by a mammoth 25 points.

Watford are the only side to have beaten the European champions, who have had the champagne on ice for months and may have to play higher profile matches at neutral venues.

Norwich City, Aston Villa and Bournemouth are in the relegation zone, with Watford, West Ham and Brighton and Hove Albion also in danger of being consigned to the drop.

Bottom side Norwich are six points adrift of Watford and West Ham, who are only out of the bottom three on goal difference.

Fifth place will be good enough for Champions League qualification if City fail to overturn a ban from the competition and several sides are in the hunt to play in Europe's premier club competition.

Third-placed Leicester City look to be heading for the Champions League, while Chelsea are fourth and three points ahead of Manchester United.

Six points separate seven clubs from United down to Crystal Palace, with Sheffield United the surprise package and one of the stories of the season in seventh place.

 

What have been the big controversies?

A two-year Champions League ban imposed on City by UEFA for allegedly breaching Financial Fair Play rules in February rocked Pep Guardiola's side.

City have appealed against the verdict and June 8-10 is when the case will be heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, with concerns for Guardiola that he could lose key players if they are unsuccessful.

Tottenham's decision to sack Mauricio Pochettino came as a shock in November and the north-London club swiftly appointed Jose Mourinho as his successor.

It came as no surprise when Unai Emery was fired by Arsenal soon after Pochettino's departure, with the Gunners turning to Mikel Arteta to replace his fellow Spaniard.

 

Who had momentum before everything stopped?

United were on a roll before the hiatus, putting together an unbeaten run of 11 games in all competitions to stand well poised for a Champions League berth.

Arsenal had gone eight without defeat in the top flight, winning three in a row prior to the season being suspended, while Burnley had not lost in seven games to move up to 10th.

 

Which clubs have had it toughest during the COVID-19 months?

Liverpool and Tottenham were among the teams who were strongly criticised for using the government furlough scheme for non-playing staff and duly changed their mind.

Jack Grealish, Kyle Walker and Moise Kean were among the players who were caught flouting lockdown regulations.

Spurs and Arsenal players also hit the headlines for the wrong reasons for breaching social distancing rules.

The league was suspended after Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi contracted COVID-19, while three rounds of coronavirus testing at Premier League clubs in the past fortnight have returned 12 positive results.

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    "Try to impose our game and our football, try to score our goals and defend the game against Real Madrid. It is incredible what [Madrid] have done in this competition, nobody has done it."

    If City finally claim the prize Madrid have lifted on a record 13 occasions, they will do so in unique circumstances heightened by the reality of a trying season on and off the field.

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    The Champions League, along with the FA Cup, offers the chance to triumphantly salvage a campaign where they meekly surrendered the Premier League title to Liverpool.

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    "I think the big clubs don't miss these chances to try until the last effort they have in their bodies."

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    "David has won everything," Guardiola said. "The World Cup, European Championships with Spain, the Premier League and all the titles you can achieve except the Champions League.

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    With a top-four place in the Premier League now guaranteed – whatever that comes to mean – Guardiola's main challenge for the rest of the campaign is getting Silva and the rest to next weekend's FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal and the Madrid match in prime condition.

    He concedes this is a balancing act but will not shirk from giving Premier League minutes to the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, even if sight of the star midfielder receiving a heavy knock during the closing stages of Wednesday's 5-0 win over Newcastle United caused understandable disquiet among the City faithful.

    "That's part of football. The important thing is they are fit," he added.

    "We cannot say one or two games, don't play and then come back. Sometimes the players who play regularly are in better condition for the important games.

    "Arsenal is an important point but it's important to keep momentum and rhythm to the way we play."

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